My little lifesaver: Polo the dog's amazing talent to sniff out trouble

Diabetic Gemma Faulkner, 11, is protected be her heroic pup Polo everyday (Caters)
Diabetic Gemma Faulkner, 11, is protected be her heroic pup Polo everyday (Caters)

Meet the super dog who saves the life of his young owner every single day.

Type one diabetic, Gemma Faulkner, 11, is protected be her heroic dog who can detect whether her blood sugars have plummeted or raised to a dangerous level.

The helpful hound alerts Gemma's parents by picking up one of the special dog bones scattered around the house and bringing it to them.

Gemma's mum, Clare Faulkner, 42, from Chichester, West Sussex, depends on Polo to save her daughter's life every single day.

Clare, a West Sussex County Council road safety worker for children, said: ‘I could never have imagined how fantastic Polo was going to be, he doesn't just save Gemma every day, he's saved our family.

‘Polo is absolutely fantastic, I will be sitting watching TV in a world of my own and he will come in and thrust a toy bone in my face - that's when I know my little girl is in danger.

‘Polo loves cuddly toys and we noticed that when he picked them up he was trying to tell us that Gemma's blood sugars were too extreme.

‘So, we put three toy bones around the house and he finds the nearest one to alert us.

‘He will look up at me, wag his tail and nudge me with his nose with a proud look on his face and he's correct 95% of the time, which is incredible.’

Gemma was diagnosed with type-one-diabetes when she was just two-years old, after Clare and her husband Julian, 41, noticed she had lost weight and was extremely dehydrated.

For years both they would both set alarms to go off every two hours throughout the night to check on their daughter.

But in 2010, Clare's mum read an article about a medical detection dog, and the family have never looked back.

Clare added: ‘When you have a baby you're sleep deprived for a few months but this never changed for me and Julian. We constantly wanted to check on Gemma as she could slip into a coma at any time.

‘I was a little sceptical at first but in the end we decided we had nothing to lose and made our application.

‘We were put on a two year waiting list and I had to explain to Gemma not to get her hopes up as there was only a very slim chance we would be successful.

‘In January 2012, we received a life changing phone call, we had been asked to go meet Polo on Valentine's Day and it really was love at first sight.’

The medical detection dog charity invited the family for a day visit to see if Polo had a bond with Gemma.

One week later the Faulkner family received the news they had been waiting for - the partnership had been successful so they went back for a week's training before finally taking the pup home.

Gemma depends on Polo to alert her parents to danger, every single day (Caters)
Gemma depends on Polo to alert her parents to danger, every single day (Caters)


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Clare said: ‘Polo is the best dog we could ever wish for.

‘He has a great temperament; he loves relaxing and is very placid. We nickname him Mr Cool.

‘I can sleep a lot easier knowing Polo will come and wake us if there's something wrong with Gemma's blood glucose levels.

‘He really is a part of the family now, I can't imagine life without him, he's Gemma's best friend.’

Gemma said: ‘Having Polo is the best thing that has happened to me, he has such a lovely nature and is funny at the same time.

‘We always have so much fun together and I feel a lot safer and more confident when Polo is around to look after me.’

In the UK, there are around 3.2million people diagnosed with either type one or type two diabetes. The condition is treated by daily insulin injections, a healthy diet and regular exercise.

Clare said: ‘I was absolutely devastated when doctors told us Gemma has type-one diabetes. She was such a healthy happy little girl before and it was the last thing we expected.


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‘We had to adapt very quickly but really it took around a year to completely sink in and for us to get into a routine.

‘I remember giving Gemma her first injection. I had to walk out of the room so she didn't see me crying.

‘It felt really traumatic, injecting your child up to four times a day, the worst thing was Gemma did not understand at that age why she needed insulin.

‘It was really hard to begin with as she wanted to do what all the other children were doing like running around at parties and scoffing food but she couldn't.
‘She's always been extremely brave though and I'm so proud of her, she just gets on with it and never whines or moans, I guess she's just used to it now, it's all she's ever known.’

Every day Gemma has to prick her finger for glucose tests, and every time she eats she has to have an insulin injection, but Polo seems to have made the ordeal easier for the whole family.

Dr Claire Guest, Director of Operations of Medical Detection Dogs said:

‘Every time we match a dog with a partner, it's a very personal process. Each patient is given time to get to know one of the dogs we have available to see if they hit it off.


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‘With Gemma and Polo, it's fair to say it was a perfect match! They bonded from the outset and have made a great team ever since.

‘Like all our dogs, Polo has done incredibly well in completing the long course of training required to make him a reliable detector of dangerously high or low blood sugar levels.

‘At Medical Detection Dogs we are passionate about training as many of these life-saving dogs as we can to give more sufferers of severe Type 1 diabetes the fresh start and a more secure future.

‘Unfortunately we are limited by our resources; the more kind donations we receive from the public, the more lives can be changed.’

For more information on detection dogs, visit: